Despite the fact that there are so many New Baby titles available, it can be quite difficult to find one that is uniformly positive. Almost every New Baby book focuses on the annoyance of a new baby, or the jealousy of the older sibling. Oh, the problems are all resolved by the end of the book, of course, and the entire family marches off into the sunset thrilled that the family has grown. But – and this is a big but – the focus of the story still remains on the jealousy.
I read somewhere recently – I think it was in Nurture Shock – that when preschoolers watch a video in which the first twenty minutes are devoted to conflict, such as siblings fighting, and the last five minutes explain proper conflict resolution, the take-away message is that siblings fight. Since the bulk of the program is on fighting, it increases fighting. I thought immediately about New Baby books when I read that article. How many older siblings are initially excited about the new baby, but are socialized into expecting to be jealous and resentful when well-meaning adults present them with books intended to combat this feeling?
Supersister is here to fill the gap. The little girl in the book is thrilled about being a supersister. An energetic ball of enthusiasm, she spends her days trying to think of ways to help her mother. She’s still a little kid: she wants a kiss at bedtime, shouts when she reads, and needs reassurance before walking to the bus stop. The emphasis here is solidly on the older child. This manages to install the idea that the older child is more capable and responsible (the ever-popular “You’re the BIG brother!”) and at the same time subtly reinforces the idea that the older child is important, loved, and cherished just as much as the new baby.
The new baby in this book is still just theoretical – the mother is very pregnant. Supersister helps out by tying mother’s shoes (a lifesaver, as any nine-months-pregnant woman facing the thought of bending over will tell you), setting the table, and doing other small chores. This overriding sense of helpfulness and responsibility are embraced with enthusiasm. It is refreshing, for a change, to see a child portrayed as something other than selfish or sullen in the face of chores. Every child eventually has a grumpy day, but so many of the young children I know are thrilled to be considered a “helper” and to feel that they are making a real contribution to their family.